Julius Caesar

 

Shakespeare Julius Caesar play. Directed 2017 by Angus Jackson at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Stars Joseph Adelakun (Artemidorus/Dardanus/Cobbler), Ben Allen (Cinna the Conspirator/Titinius), Kristin Atherton (Calpurnia/Citizen), David Burnett (Murullus/Trebonius/Pindarus/Citizen), James Corrigan (Mark Antony), Paul Dodds (Metellus Cimber/Clitus), Patrick Drury (Publius/Cinna the Poet), Waleed Elgadi (Claudius/Volumnius/Soothsayer), Martin Hutson (Cassius), Samuel Littell (Lucius), Tom Lorcan (Citizen), Luke MacGregor (Popilius Lena/Strato/Carpenter), Tom McCall (Casca/Lucilius), Hannah Morrish (Portia), Anthony Ofoegbu (Cicero/Ligarius/Varro), Dharmesh Patel (Decius Brutus/Messala/Citizen), Lucy Phelps (Citizen), Jon Tarcy (Octavius Caesar), Alex Waldmann (Brutus), Marcello Walton (Flavius/Lepidus), and Andrew Woodall (Julius Caesar). Also stars Brandon Dodsworth, Kevin Greaves, Norma Julius, Natalis Koulombis, Jacq MacDonald, Shiv Sharma, Rosanna Thornwood, and Laura Wynter as Citizens of Rome. Features musicians Andrew Stone-Fewings (trumpet), Angela Whelan (trumpet), Mark Smith (horn), Kevin Pitt (trombone/euphonium), Ian Foster (tuba/euphonium), and Gareth Ellis (keyboard). Set design by Robert Innes Hopkins; lighting by Tim Mitchell; music by Mira Calix; sound by Carolyn Downing; movement by Scott Ambler; fights by Terry King. Produced for the screen by John Wyver; directed for the screen by Dewi Humphreys. Subtitles in English only. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

The most consistently reliable resource we have for great HDVD titles is the Royal Shakespeare Company teamed up with Opus Arte. Decades ago the BBC produced adaptations of all 37 Shakespeare plays in SD color for 4:3 TV screens with mono sound (making Derek Jacobi a household name). It appears that the RSC and OA intend to out-do the BBC series by recording the entire canon in HD and Hi-Fi surround sound. So far they have done 16 plays including this very fine Julius Caesar, so we are almost half way there!

The RSC/OA titles appear to be more or less "uncut" as defined by the best scholars of the Shakespeare texts---for sure they are not in any way watered-down. All those involved in this series are Shakespeare experts intent on giving us the best rendition possible of the plays. If this project gets finished it will be a landmark of world literature for many years to come.

Subject Julius Caesar has by our count 21 speaking actors portraying 40 roles plus 8 non-speaking citizen roles. The mise-en-scène is a clean, up-to-date ancient Rome, which lets us focus entirely on how Shakespeare wanted to tell the story he read in his history books. The personal directing and acting is creative and impeccable throughout --- I know this play pretty well but I kept noticing new aspects of the drama I had never seen or thought of before. It also has intensely arresting live music that almost reaches the level of a movie soundtrack. Music is a dimension in story-telling that Shakespeare really doesn't need and you generally don't get much of from your local Shakespeare company. But I'm pretty sure Will would approve of this if it helps sell tickets.

JC has many famous lines and passage. Below for your amusement are 18 of the most famous. If you are in grade school, learn these lines and you will make a good grade on your test.

In our first screenshot, Julius Caesar (Andrew Woodall) is warned by the Soothsayer (Waleed Elgadi). The Ides was the middle day of the month in question, and was associated with settling debts:

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Cassius (Martin Hutson) is conspiring against Caesar and feels out Brutus, one of Caesar's closest friends among the Senators:

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Caesar warns his close ally, Mark Antony (James Corrigan), about Cassius:

Below we meet the sarcastic and nervy Casca, played by Tom McCall, complaining of Cicero showing off his knowledge of Greek. On the left is Brutus (Alex Waldmann.) Of all the actors here, McCall leaves me with the most distinct impression. (McCall pops up again in Act V as Lucilius, a different friend of the conspirators):

Below Caesar tries to comfort his wife Calpurnia (Kriston Atheton), who fears Caesar is in danger:

The conspirators find a pretext to surround Caesar in private:

Brutus was the last to join the conspirators and the last to strike:

Cassius gloats in the next two screenshots below:

And in the following two screenshots below, Mark Antony privately grieves for the death of his mentor:

Brutus speaks at Caesar's funeral:

Mark Antony opens his famous eulogy to Caesar:

Mark Antony lives up to his agreement with Brutus to say only good things about the conspirators. This is the most famous example of the power of irony in English literature --- and maybe in world literature:

Mark Antony has also agreed not to say good things about Caesar at the funeral, and he adheres to that promise. But he has other means to turn the mob against the conspirators:

Mark Antony shows the mob the hole in Caeser's cloak made by Brutus's sword:

After the funeral, Mark Antony and Octavius, Caesar's adopted son and heir, go to war against the conspirators. Next below Brutus explains his field order to conduct a surprise attack on the forces of Mark Antony and Octavius. It's one of the famous lines in the play, but it was a bad military decision:

With the death of Brutus by suicide, the ancient Roman Republic is over and the era of the Roman emperors begins as Octavius eventually becomes Emperor Caesar Augustus. Mark Antony is generous in his assessment of the leader of the defeated Republicans:

This fine recording of a wonderful performance gets another A+ grade for the RSC and OA. Here's an official clip: